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Car Technology And Distracted Driving

Steve Wagner

There’s been an explosion of technological additions to our cars. We can get directions, find restaurants and reviews, call or text friends, and search for our favorite road trip songs—all with a few spoken words or the touch of a button. Americans now expect more than ever before from their cars, and carmakers continue to feed the need for technological conveniences that help us multitask while on the road. Though we desire these bells and whistles, it’s important to ask if they are making us more vulnerable to car accidents and injuries. Are these technological advances making us less safe?

Despite efforts to curb distracted driving due to in-vehicle gadgets, more than 9 people are killed and over 1,153 are injured daily in the United States due to distracted driving, which can be defined as visual (taking your eyes off the road); manual (taking your hands off the wheel); or cognitive (taking your mind off driving).

17% of all U.S. crashes resulting in injury involved a distracted driver. Indiana House Bill 1394, in effect since July 1, 2015, attempts to address this issue for the high-risk demographic of drivers under 21 by banning all non-911 emergency use of a cellphone while driving, regardless of whether hands-free technology is being used.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides voluntary guidelines to encourage less distracting car features. These guidelines, provided to vehicle manufacturers, recommend designs that do not require drivers to look away from the road for more than two seconds at a time or more than 12 seconds per task.

This means that a car moving at a moderate 60 miles per hour (or approximately 88 feet per second) can travel nearly two hundred feet at a time and over one thousand feet per task with a driver who is distracted by technology—and still meet the guidelines. Despite the NHTSA recommendations, studies show the average time a driver’s eyes are off the road while texting is 5 seconds. Unfortunately, a full quarter of teens admit to responding to a text message while driving EVERY time they are driving their vehicle. The implications are frightening.

The evidence shows that if hands-free technology was somehow “locked” once a car is started (with the goal of limiting driver distraction), many drivers will then pick up their phones and engage with their technology in an even more dangerous and distracted manner. It is critical then that car manufacturers pay close attention to the level of distraction created by the systems designed for their vehicles. The NHTSA recommends the following considerations in order to minimize distractions to drivers:

  • Reduce complexity and task length required by the device;
  • Limit device operation to one hand only;
  • Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view;
  • Limit the number of manual inputs required for device operation.

Despite these considerations, one study found the vehicles with the most distracting hands-free systems left drivers distracted up to 27 seconds after engaging voice commands. These more distracting systems generated more errors, requiring additional commands and even the use of hands to redirect the system toward the action or information requested by the driver.

Have you been injured as a result of use of in-car technology?

Whether you were involved in an accident caused by a driver distracted by technology or one caused by problems with a hands-free system in a vehicle, we may be able to help! The attorneys at Wagner Reese have decades of experience in personal injury and product liability law. We can potentially assist you in recovering the damages you may be owed for the injuries you’ve incurred. Give us a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation.

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